Islay - Geography

Geography

Islay is 40 kilometres (25 mi) long from north to south and some 24 kilometres (15 mi) broad. The east coast is rugged and mountainous, rising steeply from the Sound of Islay, the highest peak being Beinn Bheigier, which is a Marilyn at 1,612 feet (491 m). The western peninsulas are separated from the main bulk of the island by the waters of Loch Indaal to the south and Loch Gruinart to the north. The fertile and windswept south western arm is called The Rinns, and Ardnave Point is a conspicuous promontory on the northwest coast. The south coast is sheltered from the prevailing winds and, as a result, relatively wooded. The fractal coast has numerous bays and sea lochs, including Loch an t-Sailein, Aros Bay and Claggain Bay. In the far south-west is a rocky and now largely uninhabited peninsula called The Oa, the closest point in the Hebrides to Ireland.

The island's population is mainly centred around the villages of Bowmore and Port Ellen. Other smaller villages include Bridgend, Ballygrant, Port Charlotte, Portnahaven and Port Askaig. The rest of the island is sparsely populated and mainly agricultural. There are several small freshwater lochs in the interior including Loch Finlaggan, Loch Ballygrant, Loch Lossit and Loch Gorm and numerous burns throughout the island, many of which bear the name "river" despite their small size. The most significant of these are the River Laggan which discharges into the sea at the north end of Laggan Bay and the River Sorn which, draining Loch Finlaggan, enters the head of Loch Indaal at Bridgend.

There are numerous small uninhabited islands around the coasts, the largest of which are Eilean Mhic Coinnich and Orsay off the Rinns, Nave Island on the north west coast, Am Fraoch Eilean in the Sound of Islay and Texa off the south coast.

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